Locals provide balloon pilots landing help

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Pictured in the basket (left to right, back row) Klaus, Elijah, Peter, (front row) Jonah, and Jeremiah Kehn. (Left to right, in front of the basket) Jessica Kehn, Malorie Okuhara, Gabrielle Peno, Balloon Pilot Fred Poole, Rebecca Mabile (back), Emily Mabile (front).

The funny thing about the hot air balloon rides is that they do not steer themselves. Some of the ride is inevitably spent on figuring out when and where to land.

Things like trees, power lines, active streets, and domestic and farm animals are all things that need to be avoided when figuring out where to land.

One of the coolest things about the Ascension Hot Air Ballon Festival is the annual ride that balloon pilots take early Saturday Morning before the big day of the festival. But what makes it cool, other than a bunch of balloons floating in the sky over the parish is the local support.

From high in the sky, balloon riders can look down over the landscape and see friendly people waving up towards them, watching the sky, and even taking pictures.

When pilot Fred Poole landed Saturday morning he was greeted with a group of five women and five boys who had followed his balloon for quite a while. They were traveling in a large van. Poole's balloon is aptly named "Shadow" because it is black with a ring of multicolored flags on the side of it.

"We thought it was the Darth Vader balloon because it was black," one of the women said after the balloon landed.

It is not uncommon for people to track the balloons and approach the pilots after they land to help them pack the balloon and take photographs.

In this case, the boys took turns jumping onto the 600-pound balloon envelope to help pack it away, after helping fold it. Poole offered the women, and the owner of the property that Shadow landed on Champagne as a custom.

He told the balloonist's prayer, "The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with his warm hands. You have flown so high and so well, that God has joined you in your laughter. And he has set you gently back again into the loving arms of Mother Earth."

After this, he initiated his riders, who happened to be the editorial team from the Weekly Citizen and The Chief, by dousing them with water.

To all who participated in the Ascension Parish Hot Air Balloon Festival this year, the Weekly wishes to extend a hand of gratitude for making it one of the best weeks of the year.

For our gallery of more Hot Air Balloon Festival Photos click here.